By Matthew W. Meyer

The Hope of Epic Failure

Each summer we partner with the Bosnian IFES movement (EUS) and send a team to Bosnia—to teach English to Bosnian college students and to share our lives and faith.

In a country that is beautiful, broken, overlooked, under-served, and where there are very few genuine followers of Jesus, we pray that our partnership with EUS will lead to the gospel advancing and bringing reconciliation and healing to Bosnia.

This summer, twelve of us went to Bosnia. We spent three weeks teaching, building friendships, praying, and having amazing spiritual conversations over coffee.

One of our main goals was to invite students to camp at the end of the summer. EUS’s camp is a place for students to explore Jesus in depth and to experience Christian community. It’s one of the only places where the local staff workers have the opportunity to boldly preach the Gospel. It is one of the most important parts of EUS’s yearly rhythm. We aimed to bring about fifteen students from our classes to the camp.

One student came.

The Embarrassment of Failure

We totally failed at one of the most important things we wanted to accomplish that summer. We felt frustrated, embarrassed, and angry.

But in the midst of the failure, God met us.

God spoke to us through the words of Jesus in Mark 8:33. After Peter tries to convince Jesus that Jesus shouldn’t be killed, Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan, you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Jesus went to his death, knowing that it would look like a complete and utter failure. When in reality, it would lead to the greatest victory in history.

Peter had no idea what God was doing. Just like us.

The Bible is Full of 'Failures'

Success is an idol in our culture that even we(Christians) worship. In Christian culture, we want bigger events and more people and if we don’t meet our goals, we assume something must be wrong with us.

But in the Bible, a lot of God’s leaders appeared to be failures from an outside perspective:

  • Israel’s judges failed to lead God’s people away from idols
  • God’s prophets are ignored and killed
  • God’s Son dies the most shameful death imaginable
  • his followers are persecuted and killed

After reflecting on our own experience in light of scripture, I realized that success (in human terms) is not a recurring theme in the Kingdom of God.

Instead relentless faithfulness to God’s call is.

God is God and we are not, thank goodness

We were reminded again and again that we had no idea what God was doing in Bosnia, but that He had called us to play a small role in advancing the Kingdom there. We wanted to define the terms of our success, but we only get to plant seeds. Only God brings the growth and only He brings the results He wants in His timing.

This is an amazing and liberating message.

As individuals, we only play very small roles in the much larger picture of what God is doing – He knows what He is doing when we have no idea. When we seek success apart from faithfulness, we miss out on the best things that God has for us. If we are faithful even when it leads to apparent failure, we know that in the end that God’s plan will triumph.

Matt Meyer and his wife Bekah are planting an InterVarsity chapter at Ventura College in California. Matt blogs on life and ministry at


"Success is an idol in our culture that even we(Christians) worship. In Christian culture, we want bigger events and more people and if we don’t meet our goals, we assume something must be wrong with us." Unless you can back up this statement with scripture, I disagree with this statement. You preach and speak about faithfulness, which I believe to be true. But you forgot something, Matthew 19:26- "Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything IS possible (noticed the word everything).” We cannot believe in anything that we do without speaking, believing and more importantly, praying about it. It requires such perseverance in our lives in order to have success. You will never succeed in life if you don't believe in in what God will provide if you ask for it. If you study scripture, you'll be surprised about how much the Bible talks a lot about success and leadership from a biblical standpoint and even what God has in mind for us. One of the best places I would start looking into besides the Bible (start with Deut 1)). Also an awesome read on prayer and leadership, Prayer Circle by Mark Patterson.

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